When you can't live without bananas

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Saturday, March 10, 2007

"Everybody lies, but it doesn't matter because nobody listens." - Nick Diamos


Me: why does she call me gssq

Frigid Girl: she and *** like to do that
it's a habit with them to call you gssq

more blog than man! gssq!!

where did the caps come from

MFTTW: butbut investment banks make the most $$$!!! but then you'd have no more time left to blog

Me: ...

money is not impt to me
hurr hurr

MFTTW: you say that now

Me: at 14 I said I didn't want to get married
I was told "you say that now"
10 years later I still don't

MFTTW: well maybe in 10 years you will be married. and in 20 money will be impt to you.

Me: and in 30 I will be a christian
in 40 I will turn gay
in 50 I will kill myself

MFTTW: hurhur. never say never.

Someone: I can't stand my school's food
you can walk from one stall to another staring at the food and then walk back and then walk forth again and still can't decide

the school wants us skinny so they can clinch the TAF girls award
if they have no taf people then they will win another award
surely that's good

they already announced a drop since last time

Someone else: you very thick skinned
i have great respect for you on this account, if for nothing else


"They are very scared! So they try to become the phallus of the mother! But then the mother says, 'get the hell out of my vagina'"

it's a parody of Lacan's idea of the phallus, interpreted :P

ok to put it simply
to lacan, the phallus is simply that which is absent and therefore desired
not just the literal penis
but very linked to the penis

the male infant sees that he has a penis
so at first he thinks his mum's got one too
only natural

but then he sees, horror of horrors, a missing phallus!
so that makes him confused and afraid
and he becomes scared that he'll lose his phallus

Me: eh this is very freudian

Someone else: yah lacan modified many of freud's ideas

Me: freud has been discredited lah
see. this is the difference between social science and literature

Someone: first yr girls are annoying as hell
i dread having em i nclass

the palpable eagerness
just dunno when to shut up

Me: haha
then the guys?

Someone: them too. but not as bad. i think ns mellows us out
My brother-in-law was trying to pull off the usual emotional blackmail about how "you've never earned any money in your life" and "you've never given anything", so the $10 Kinokuniya voucher which I'd told him that I was giving him is now going to someone else.
On a tree by a river a little tom-tit sang:

{, more}

Friday, March 09, 2007

While I mourn the loss of another soul to the forces of darkness, I notice the following:

cheryl be good: Whistle-blower

"I want to bring to attention a character so lame and inane, with so much time on his hands probably because no one wants to go out with him, someone whose life is so devoid of joy, fulfilment, gratification and meaning that he has made it his personal mission to attack and discredit a religion of which he has no interest in.

He professes to be a die-hard and stalwart atheist. What puzzles me are the unbridled passion and impressive drive he possesses and displays in his hate campaign for someone who is religiously neutral.

I reckon if he had channelled to his studies and other areas of his life the same passion and drive he’s committing to his anti-Christ efforts, he would have been the President’s Scholar. (He is not)

Why would anyone have the interest, let alone fervour to launch the hate campaigns he does, write scores of essays and expositions convincing the general public of his view when he has decided that it’s not his cup of tea? He must be very free.

Please don’t defend him by entertaining the laughable possibility that he could be doing all this for intellectual purposes. There is nothing intellectual about any of his views and I think he should focus instead, like everyone else on expounding and defending what he is actually passionate about (like maybe promoting the causes of fat people?), instead of making it his business to denigrate something he is not.

This is his website. www.gssq.blogspot.com

On the left are his juvenile and laughable attempts at discrediting Christianity; one of the essays includes a report of his single experience in a church service. I wonder why someone so averse to Christianity would spend precious time going to church only to come home and write a thousand-word report to ridicule the people in church if he wasn’t mentally/socially challenged with no focus or comfort in life.

It’s not as if he’s being paid to write.

I do not believe a person of his intellectual calibre and moral standing; or lack thereof will ever make it anywhere in life in any capacity."

It's good to see that the classic Singaporean argumentative techniques of the ad hominem attack (aka 'You suck') and the non-sequitur (aka blandly asserting something without making an argument for it) are well and alive.

And I'm sure Alcoholics Anonymous and Operation Clambake (an anti-Scientology website) will be happy to know that they have no raison d'etre and can thus shut down forthwith.

"Finally, be ye all of one mind, having compassion one of another, love as brethren, be pitiful, be courteous: Not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing: but contrariwise blessing; knowing that ye are thereunto called, that ye should inherit a blessing. For he that will love life, and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips that they speak no guile: Let him eschew evil, and do good; let him seek peace, and ensue it."

Addendum: "I have deleted gssq aka Agagooga's comment, because I have deemed it unworthy of my rejoinder."

Very good.

Menstruation and getting women off the hook for crimes

"Although it is unclear whether women generally suffer a higher incidence of criminality during their generative phases, it is clear that the law takes account of these elements in deciding some cases. Menstruation has been used as a partial defence plea, and both menstruation and menopause have been accepted as factors which should reduce sentences (see also 7.1.1). Here the case of menstruation will be considered, but similar factors apply to menopause. Although both these ‘generative phases’ have been commonly used in such relatively minor cases as shoplifting, more serious cases will be considered here. Susan Edwards (1988) notes that in the nineteenth century pre-menstrual tension (PMT) was frequently discussed as being an important element of a defence in cases of violence, killing, arson and theft. Both she and Luckhaus (1985) refer to cases in the early eighties where PMT was successfully pleaded. In one of these, the woman faced a murder charge which was reduced to manslaughter due to diminished responsibility attributed to PMT, and had received a probationary sentence with a proviso that she undergo hormone treatment (R v Craddock [1981] CLY 476). Only a few months after the first offence, the same woman was charged with threatening to kill a police officer and of possessing an offensive weapon. Although convicted, PMT acted as a factor to reduce sentence and she was again placed on probation and required to undergo an increased hormone dose (R v Smith [1982] Grim LR 531; Craddock and Smith are the same person). In another case a woman, charged with murder, was convicted only of manslaughter due to diminished responsibility; there was no custodial sentence, not even the requirement of hormonal treatment (Christine English. The Times, 12 November 1981 and see also Rose (2000)). Clearly, in thc cases of these women the law accepted that PMT, although not amounting to a full defence, was the most important reason for the behaviour. PMT was accepted as a partial excuse and as a reason for lenient sentencing; the total effect was the acceptance of the controversial idea that PMT amounted to a causative explanation. This is an interesting acceptance in the light of the fact that medical evidence is divided about the existence of such a syndrome and its effects. If there are effects, they appear to be mainly psychological, such tension, irritability, depression, tiredness, mood swings and feelings of loneliness, although Dalton (1984) has included some relevant physical effects such as epilepsy, fainting and even hypoglycaemia (see 7.2.2 and 7.3.2). Rose (2000) would wish to see women receiving treatment at an early stage to avoid both the later criminal behaviour and the need to admit this type evidence in court.

In the case of post-natal depression there is, of course, the special case of infanticide (see generally 7.1.1 and 9.2.4 for a definition of this defence). Again, in this instance the law accepts as a partial excuse the fact that a woman’s mind and behaviour are affected by the hormonal changes in her body. If a mother kills her child within its first year as a result of post-natal depression or lactation, she would have a partial defence to murder which would render it infanticide. This is clearly only a defence open to women, and is the only sex-specific defence recognised in the criminal law. Some of these killings may possibly be the result of exhaustion through caring for the child, guilt through not feeling affection for it, or the effect of other social pressures, all of which could equally well be suffered by a man if he was the person primarily in charge of the care of the child (for a full discussion of this see Wilczynski and Morris (1993)). The Law Commission’s Draft Criminal Code suggested (clause 64(1)) that these social reasons for infanticide be recognised but only in the case of women (see Mackay (1993)). But a man cannot rely upon the same defence and would have to argue that his mind was unbalanced in some other way in order to plead diminished responsibility.

Certainly when one looks at the figures there appears to be an unfairness, Marks and Kumar (1993) show that the rates of killing of children under one have remained constant since 1957 at about 45 per million per year. This is higher than for any other age group and represents about 30 killings a year. They further discovered that women who kill such children are dealt with much more leniently (most are subject to probation) than are men (who are frequently imprisoned), even when the level of violence used by the women is greater. The leniency could arise because the charge of infanticide is available for women. Dell (1984), has shown that in cases of manslaughter the sentencing has been steadily becoming more and more severe, but Maier-Katkin and Ogle (1993), suggest that even when women are convicted of manslaughter they are treated leniently (often with probation) which suggests that it is not so much to do with a special defence being available but is connected with greater compassion for these women. Whatever the reason the men suffer much more serious sentencing for relatively similar cases. It is questionable whether such imbalance is just. The solution should not be to remove the defence of infanticide which recognises the severe pressures of new motherhood and reduces the stigma and the punishment. Perhaps there is scope for extending this defence: in the case of women to include ‘circumstances consequent on the birth’ as suggested by the Law Commission in the draft Criminal Code Bill; and in the case of men for severe stress caused by the birth and care of a child. In some of the most severe cases there may even be worth in pleading insanity and obtaining a finding of not guilty by reason of insanity, see Maier-Katkin (1991).

As was seen in Chapter Seven the hormonal imbalances suffered by men do not normally affect either their conviction or their sentence. Women, however, can successfully plead such imbalances even in the most serious cases where they take the life of another person (see also (9.2.4)). For the individual women involved, this is probably an advantage as they will either elude an unpleasant label or an unpleasant sentence, or both. For women in general, its effects are not so positive. It allows the continuation of the idea that women are incapable of controlling themselves and that their actions can be explained through medical reasoning they are mentally or physically sick, or both (see Wilczynski and Morris (1993)). Widely used, the implication of this reasoning would be that women should be treated for this 'sickness' rather than punished. It removes from women the idea that they may choose the criminality, that it might be a rational decision arising out of a social, economic or political situation."

--- Katherine S. Williams, Textbook on Criminology, Positivist Explanations of Female Criminality: 'Generative phases' of women

Thursday, March 08, 2007

An email from my favourite feminist:

Subject: Just for the sheer irony value

Message body: Happy International Women's Day!

My reply:

Ah, what would I do without you?
"The really frightening thing about middle age is that you know you'll grow out of it." - Doris Day


Someone: most men like women fairer than them, when it comes to the same race.
which is why dark pple like me have to resort to ang mohs who exotify asian women

if a tan is so sexy why do singaporean women like to stay so damn white
korean and jp women too
and chinese women too

yeah i dont think sg men find me very sexy
only thai construction workers and malay men whistle at me.
the banglahs stare.

and prc dont even bother

the angmohs stare too.

MFTTW: hahaha. stat boards! :D

they really ask offensive things like... your dialect group... religion.. parents income
might as well ask if you are a virgin

married/single/dating non-exlucsively/dating exclusively
names of former significant others, their occupations, AND their income

Me: sexual orientation

MFTTW: yep

number of previous sexual partners

Tim: i had a steak

Me: self made?

Tim: from the friendly butcher next door

Me: he cooks steak?

Tim: i buy the raw steak lah
damn good cut

Me: wagyu

but it's 5 times more expensive than the supermarket cut

Me: is it 5 times nicer?

Tim: about 10 times
nah. infinite times

i like mine 'bleu'
you can't do that with a supermarket cut

if you cheat with NaHCO3, papaya extract, egg white or some rubbish
the texture is different

Me: I’m told you have trouble finding material for this week’s IVLE [posting on popular culture in Singapore and hegemony]

Someone: yess

Me: just buy FHM singapore lah

Someone: hm. but what's the hegemonic struggle there?

Me: haha
sure can find one

remember: critical theory is very powerful

Someone: haha

Someone else: anyway, re the G rated films, aren't you missing hte point a bit re availability etc?

the point is, and i felt this long before ever reading the report, it just articulated something that i felt as a 13 year old, if you're a young girl you see very few roles for you as a joker/wandered/explorer/active person in the world when the world built around you consists primarily of men doing things and being varied and women being ornamental

Me: but then you eschew categories
so why are they so important to you now

why should it matter if it's a male doing things or a female doing things
they're just 'people' to you

Someone else: yes that's how i tried to think about it

Me: at 13? wth

Someone else: the trouble is if you are persistently presented with one picture only, reinforced by didactic instruction from outside, and it conditions how other people react to your behaviour (because note that many of THEM don't eschew categories), and the meaning of your behaviour to other people, this produces a conflict

it's not surprising that many women become idiots if they persistently associate womanhood with clothing and make-up exclusively

i mean we dn't exist atomistically

if you have a certain critical mass of community, enough of a nexus of other people to actively sustain an alternative meaning (remember Chua Beng Huat's critique of PAP manufactured ideology?), then you can be quite free despite others' views

but if you don't have that shared breathing space, you can't unilaterally manufacture sustainable and emotionally healthy meanings of things all by yourself

or you can, but then you become susceptible to "at 13? wth"

Me: ...

Someone: is it a bad thing to meet someone who has all the right qualities mentally and intellectually but not feel any romantic interest simply because they lookt oo plain?

Me: part of the misery of the human condition is we're controlled by our genes

Someone: yes it is

Me: if shit were good for health, and we forced ourselves to eat it everyday, we would feel horrible

Someone: ..... the analogy is lost on me

Me: if there was a girl who was good for you but damn ugly, and you forced yourself to like her, it wouldn't work out

Someone: i find myself slightly down at the fact that i can't bring myself to be less shallow

Me: what is shallowness?

Someone: clearly there are people who ca nlook past that in selecting mates
i guess i just can't

Me: in this case we apply feminist theory and say that the concept of 'shallowness' is a value judgment imposed by women on men to oppress them

and that an equally valid valuation system (aesthetic appeal) subscribed to by men can be used to value potential partners. ignoring the valuations of half the human race is grossly distortionary

Someone: maybe we are simply genetically or culturally conditioned - but it must not be an absolute otherwise people like (someone) wouldn't get married. the humbling and depressing observation is that someone like me - a victim of such discrimination and conditioning - should also be a perpetuator of it. and a knowing one at that

but really, the thing is - i *know* that i'm in no position to be discriminatory on the basis of looks - yet i can't get over it. it's like talking to the guy next to you in the urinal or thinking abot your parents having sex. it's just.... *shudders*.... something visceral. do you think it's cultural or conditioning? i'd say cultural - most of the qualifiers of female beauty these days aren't the best signs of reproductive fecundity, which you would expect from a purely genetic determinisn point of view

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

"It is fun to be in the same decade with you." - Franklin D. Roosevelt, in a letter to Winston Churchill


Gramsci writes about hegemony as a continuous struggle for consensus. Popular culture (television programmes, advertisements, films, magazines, fashion, parades, etc) is one particular site of such ideological struggles.

Please choose one specific example from popular culture in Singapore and show how ideological struggles play out there.

Hegemonic and counter-hegemonic struggles

To maintain its power, the state uses a mixutre of coercion and hegemony. Hegemony is a dynamic process, with the dominant party struggling to impose its mindset on the subordinate party and get it to internalize and accept it, (thus giving longevity to the hegemony) producing consensus. At the same time, the dominated resist by engendering counter-hegemonic currents to subvert and protest the ideology that is being imposed on them.

I shall consider one example of the former (P65 MPs Hip-hopping at Chingay 2007) and one of the latter (NDP @ Simei).


In an attempt to connect with the younger, post-Independence generation, the PAP has recruited and branded 12 Members of Parliament born after 1965 as "P65" MPs. Besides giving them a blog to connect with the Internet generation and marketing them to the public via the mass media, it also secured a spot for them in 2007's Chingay Chinese New Year Parade to perform a hiphop dance number; in the first place Chingay is an instrument of hegemony, organised as part of Chinese New Year festivities to placate the Chinese community after traditional firecrackers were banned in the 1970s.

Hip-hop is an art form originating in the 1970s and as such is younger than both the PAP (founded in 1954) and the P65 MPs. By associating the P65 MPs with hip-hop, the PAP is giving them the impression of funk, freshness and vibrance, part of which will presumably reflect on the rest of the Party and by extention the State. This is in contradistinction to its existing image of technocratic efficiency, whiter-than-whiteness and the starched collars of junzi (Confucian gentlemen). Interestingly, whereas Gramsci characterised hegemony as getting the proletariat to internalize bourgeois values and accept them as their own, in this case the dominant group is instead attempting to appropriate the values of the dominated group for itself.

The engaging of the public through pop culture and a popular parade is different from the usual top-down approach of diktat and of urging citizens to tighten their belts and do what's best for the country, disseminated through bureaucratic and political channels. Instead, citizens are engaged with through the medium of popular culture, broadening the scope of hegemony and its methods of capturing citizens' hearts, minds and souls.

Having P65 MPs dance hip-hop during Chingay (a parade which features a selection of groups form many sectors of society, from undergraduates to religious associations to grassroots organisations to civil society organisations to foreign talent) brings the message that "we are you" - the relationship between dominant and submissive parties is blurred and hegemony is internalized by the people.

Watching the actual performance, one finds that during the performance the P65 MPs are surrounded and outnumbered by youths who might be half their age, lending them the aura of youth. Most or all of these dancers are from NUS, which might serve to blunt the manufacture of consent by associating the P65 MPs only with one segment of society - English-educated undergraduates.

The MPs' dance moves are comparatively tame for hiphop, and the performance is short at less than 2 minutes. Although there is an attempt at manufacturing consensus, it is incomplete


The National Day Parade (NDP) is a yearly celebration held to commemorate the Nation's independence in 1965. Besides involving government figures there is also a strong military presence in it, recalling Nazi and Communist military parades. During it, participants, spectators and TV viewers are urged to come together as one, forgetting their differences, in an orgy of nation-building.

NDP @ Simei is filmed in a toilet, with actors improvising props from all manner of everyday materials. Umbrellas serve as swords and rifles, motorcycle helmets and a first aid box substitute for military headgear and a dumpster replaces the jeep that the President rides around the track in. Instead of military uniform, the actors are topless (a symbol of informality and/or barbarity instead of civilization). The use of profane objects to substitute for sacred ones violates the sanctity of the ritual, and with the ritual removed from its familiar context, its ludicrousness is apparent.

The actors march in an exaggerated fashion that mocks conventional Singaporean military marching, and in the background a mobile phone plays a ringtone of the National Anthem (official guidelines indicate that the Anthem is to be played respectfully, so its satiric use is a form of resistance). The 'President' in military attire underscores the links the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) and State have and waves to a non-existent crowd, which parallels how dignitaries at parades wave to everyone and no one at the same time.

At one point, one actor exchanges some indistinct words with the President, and when the latter assents he gets on the floor and does pushups, only to be told to "Recover, recover". It can thus be inferred that the actor was asking the President for permission to carry on. During NDP the Parade Commander asks the President for permission to "carry on" the parade, but here this has been conflated with permission to "carry on", which in a SAF context means to do pushups as a form of punishment.

Being males, some of the actors would have been through or would eventually have to participate in the NDP as part of their military service. Even if they have not/will never participate(d) in NDP, they would have been bombarded with it every year, on TV, through newspapers, banners and more. By parodying the hegemonic tool, they use its forms and vocabulary but subvert them and show their non-acceptance of hegemony - they have not internalized these values as their own.

Primary sources:

1) P65 MPs:

2) NDP @ Simei
"There is nothing more dreadful than imagination without taste." - Johann Wolfgang von Goethe


This likely explains half of alleged sexual harassment:

A well-stacked young advertising secretary wore tight knit dresses that showed off her figure, especially when she walked. Her young, aggressive boss motioned her into his office one afternoon and closed the door.

Pointing to her tightly covered derriere, he asked, "Is that for sale?"

"Of course not!" she snapped angrily, blushing furiously.

Unchanged, he replied quietly, "Then, I suggest you quit advertising it."

[Addendum: This would also be an appropriate reply to women who complain when their plunging necklines are appreciated]

u r wt u wr:

- 'If you're happy and you know it, buy me a drink'
- 'I like the boys in the band'
- 'Nice guys finish last'
- 'I love medical students'
- 'Flesh queen'
- 'What tan lines?'
- 'womaniser' ('wo' was in white, and the rest in yellow)
- 'Looking for the best one?'
- 'I fear for myself after 10 years' (I hope she still is wearing this in 10 years)

- 'I only speak two languages. English and Body.' (I think this stall was from the woman who asked me not to copy her silly slogans the last time, since I also saw the 'God made dirt... Girls should flirt' top. What I did this time was to memorise this and walk out of sight before writing it down, hurr hurr.)

My sources inform me that SMU girls don't wear "u r wt u wr" tops. I am not surprised. They are also not sighted in Medicine (M2s at least - an M5 said 'sometimes') and Law. I am not surprised either.

I suspect the reason people wear leggings is because they're scared of being upskirted. And the reason they dress like Superman is because they're scared of being downbloused. [Someone: 'They don't think so practically.']
"Those who flee temptation generally leave a forwarding address." - Lane Olinghouse


I wish I could go back to Year 1. Life was so simple back then.
What would I give to go back and solve simultaneous equations again!

I wish I could go back to Year 1. Back then you know what's going on.
You sit in the Deck, and think, "Oh my God! I have 4 long hours to kill!"

How do I go back to Year 1! I don't know all this shit anymore!

Every academic year, I see a groaning animatronic bear somewhere along the walkway from the Library to AS1. This year, I decided to check it out. It turned out to be a campaign to raise awareness about bile bears. ('A bile bear or battery bear is the term used for Asiatic black bears kept in captivity in Vietnam and China so that bile may be extracted from them for sale as a traditional Chinese medicine (TCM).')

In the past, people used to hunt bears in the wild, kill them and extract their bile. Then they realised they could do better by keeping them in cages and tapping them for their bile in open-stomach surgery from time to time. The campaign urged us to help end this practice.

But then, as I observed to someone, if they cracked down on bear farms, they'd go back to hunting them in the wild, which would be even worse for the bears.

Most of the people on the bus to the Bukit Timah Campus I was on got off at the bottom of the hill and walked to the bus stop. We're all cheapskate bastards.

"Internet riches : the simple money-making secrets of online millionaires" - Wth. Why is this in the library?!

I find that the harder I study, the worse I do. Gah.

Instead of anal attendance policies, a better idea would be what one of my instructors did in a previous semester: he wrote an email asking the student if he was alright since he'd missed a few lessons.

I was at an exam where the instructor told some people who handed in 2 exam booklets: 'You wrote too much'. Writing too much for an exam can be seen as a negative externality: fellow students get stressed (and pulled down the bell curve, ceteris paribus) and the person marking the paper gets pissed off because he has to read so much. One suggestion I had was to draw boxes to put answers in and proclaim that nothing outside them would be read. Unfortunately this only works for short-answer questions.
A: "Kelly and Smith evaluated the 101 top-grossing G-rated films from 1990 to 2004. Of the over 4,000 characters in these films, 75% overall were male, 83% of characters in crowds were male, 83% of narrators were male, and 72% of speaking characters were male. In addition, there was little change from 1990 to 2004.This gross underrepresentation of women or girls in films with family-friendly content reflects a missed opportunity to present a broad spectrum of girls and women in roles that are nonsexualized."


Me: Wow. Gotta love the research they did.

Are there comparative statistics on the number of male and female actresses available to act in films?

I must note possible selection bias though. These are top-grossing G-rated films. Perhaps they did well because they played to popular notions and stereotypes (eg About 75% of characters being men). And what about PG films and 'worse'?

A: You're missing the point. The point is that if it's always men speaking, doing, being, even just hanging out incidentally in a crowd, then from a young age women don't see identities available to them as women except as ornamental objects of romantic attention. Or if they do desire other identities or more multidimensional identities, they find it portrayed as deeply atypical or in conflict with being a woman -- why should amounting to anything other than a toy have to be the province of men only? I can assure you there are many young girls who experience that feelings and even some who at a young age understand it enough to articulate it almost the same way (almost as far back as I can remember I have voiced in some form the complaint that "Everyman" characters are in many instances of mass produced culture invariably, well, men).

B: What Andy Ho means is summarised thus:

1. Gay men are weak and effeminate.
2. But they patronise gay porn, which glorifies the hyper-masculine male.
3. Therefore, gay porn adds to their marginalisation, since the hyper-masculine is the antithesis of the gay male.
4. Therefore, gay men should not support gay porn, by supporting the censorship of it.

This would all be very tralala (2, 3 and 4 are similar to many feminist critiques of porn) but for the fact that 1 is wrong.

Point 2 is also confused, although not necessarily. Porn is not like art. When I go and watch Macbeth or whatever, I can say that I am 'supporting' it and certainly I am adding to the propagation of it/its message in society (or at least if I regularly watch Macbeth or Shakespearean plays or whatever). But when someone consumes porn, he does not think 'I am watching this movie because I agree with its message'. The thought process is more like 'I am watching this movie because it will help me get off' -- i.e. there is something in it which represents for me, sexual titillation.

Me: For that matter, G-rated films are not like art. When I go and watch the Lion King, I am not thinking 'I am watching this movie to be sexist and reinforce the oppression of women in our society through the perpetuation of unhealthy stereotypes'. I am thinking more like 'I want to see dancing animals and singing lions'.

In fact, your argument could be used to rebut feminist spiel about how pornography brutalises women, glorifies violence blah blah.

But then this is where the multiplicity of meanings comes in. You can always find something to say. For example, if you highlight the top performing minority students in Singapore, you can be making it more obvious that the rest aren't succeeding and that this is racist and discriminatory. And if you don't highlight any good minority students, you are ignoring the minorities, not providing positive role models to them to counter negative stereotypes, reinforcing their sense of inferiority and eo ipso are being racist and discriminatory.

I love meaning mining! You're damned if you do, and damned if you don't.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

"The goal of all inanimate objects is to resist man and ultimately defeat him." - Russell Baker



[Me: Why don't Indians eat pork? It's impure right...] We [Hindus] believe if you eat pork, you have to be reborn 100 times. I've had it 5 times... It was worth it.

There's only one road you can go down if you take this path. [Me: What?] Destruction... The feminist lecturers: If you're pro-feminist they love you... Feminism is damn biased. It's the only discipline in academia which is allowed to be so biased. [Me: Have you seen race studies?]

[Me: What do you learn in 'Understanding Irony'?] That you cannot understand irony.

One very typical university exam question is: 'Was Marx a Marxist?'

Chinese New Year: 'Why are you such a loser'. If we can overcome that... Post-industrialist... We all hear of CEOs who become schoolteachers... They look for more meaningful things to do. We see this in lawyers too. They become restaurant owners.

People makes ants meet (make ends)

[On 'exploitation'] The reason why the US dumps tons and tons of wheat in the sea is so the price won't go down so they [the farmers] won't be exploited.

[On trade unions sustaining integral hegemony] You're a member of a trade union. They tell you: 'Hey, every year we give you a calendar and an umbrella'.

Some people say: 'Oh there's no politics in Singapore. It's so easy'... There's a struggle for consent... There are ruptures... Singapore is closer to the integral hegemony model.

[On modern Marxists] They mention revolutionary potential, but they don't mean it anymore.

I'm going to show you a clip from a film called Chicken Rice War. it's a terrible film... [Student: It has a clip with necrophilia right.] Chicken Rice War doesn't have necrophilia. It's a commercial film. That would be hard to relate to our topic for today.

[Me on a Geylang research trip: Did you meet any street walkers?] A lot. [Me: all PRC?] A lot of nations. It's like the UN.

After period 1, the world comes to an end. Is that clear?... Although it is simple, this model can give us a lot of insights. Sometimes they can be misleading... Any questions? [Me: What year is this model from?] Frenkel and Razin. 1984. Long time ago... Well, the world hasn't come to an end yet.

He has to repay his borrowing. There's no free lunch... Only then can he die happily.

Like Singapore, we're always investing our money abroad. Whether we can get our money back, we don't know.

What should B1 be? Today I'm in a good mood so I'll give you the answer.

If you anticipate an unfavourable shock in the future, you will improve your current account now. That's why the government always says: 'The future looks bleak. Let's tighten our belts now.'

How do you determine the autarky interest rate? *Silence* I asked this question last semester. Most students got it right. Very disappointing.

You can't discuss in my tutorial. There're too many arrogant people.

My Great Refusal of Marxism

"We live in a Newtonian world of Einsteinian physics ruled by Frankenstein logic." - David Russell


The Great Refusal of Marxism
Addendum: Perhaps this is better titled "My Great Refusal of Marxism"

Marxism is presumptuous, contradictory, romanticised, ironic, simplistic and demeans the value of humanity. Unsurprisingly, it sounds a lot like religion, since Marxism itself is like a religion.

It is presumptuous because it claims people are suffering from false consciousness, yet it seeks to impose its form of consciousness on them, and then claims this is the true consciousness.

All systems and ideologies are riddled with contradictions except for Marxism; if you benefit from another ideology, you will support it because of vested interests. If you don't, your support must come from false consciousness, or you must be deluded or coopted in some way (now I understand why they sent Soviet dissidents for electroshock therapy, it was because they were insane in being unable to appreciate the truth of Communism). As we know, ad hominem attacks are to be avoided - you evaluate ideologies on their merits, or lack thereof, and not because of your social position. And this strange assumption of its own infallibility cannot be justified.

Marxism is also contradictory. It posits that human nature is good and that we would be able to live happily in a Socialist/Communist Utopia. It also says that history is a history of class struggle which will never end untill everyone is in the same class. But then if human nature is good, why would the Bourgeoisie oppress the Proletariat? And if it's not good why would suffering not cease when Socialist/Communist Utopia is reached?

National ties are false yet somehow we must believe in a worldwide fellowship of workers.

It is romanticised, with dodgy theories about the halcyon past, our Gattungswesen, ('species being') and alienation. This is divorced from historicity, reality and human nature.

Marx said that factory workers are unhappy because they have no connection with the product of their work, and so are alienated from themselves, their work and each other. They cannot apply their humanity to engage in creative work (creative in the sense of palpably creating something).

This is bullshit. Does anyone imagine that fishermen and farmers are very happy (deceptive and disingenuous motivational stories aside)? Do they not want to work in factories? Even in the case of artisans, the only potters and craftsmen who sit happily in their workshops making everything themselves and eschewing the benefits of specialization are those paid to show tourists what the imagined handicrafts industry is like (the Granny of Chinese lore who ground the iron rod into a needle probably let her grandchildren starve due to her stupidity). Why does rural-urban migration exist? This is what happens when you sit in the British Library and write rubbish, instead of working on a farm from dusk to dawn for peanuts.

Supposedly we are working more and more, yet in many ways we are working less and less (eg Household conveniences, more efficient modes of transport). Do office workers really work more and harder than the farmers, fishermen and artisans of old?

It accuses capitalism of over-production, yet the reality is that wants become needs, and anyway wants unlimited: people never have enough. As such you can't have 'overproduction'.

It is simplistic because, besides the many problems outlined above, it also naively divides people into Bourgeoisie and Proletariat. The Bourgeoisie are always exploiters, and the Proletariat are always the exploited. People are essentialised into one of these categories.

Marxism throws out accusations of 'exploitation' willy-nilly, and somehow everything follows. Yet the assumption of 'exploitation' is never questioned; it flows from a simplistic understanding of economic theory. 'Exploitation' occurs through the appropriation of 'surplus value', but 'value' is a theoretical concept which cannot actually be measured. Just as both producers and consumers enjoy producer and consumer surplus respectively, so do workers enjoy economic rent, and anyway profit, interest and rent do need to be paid (if any Marxist disagrees, just ask to borrow $10,000 from him for 10 years and repay the real value of his money to him at the end; if any Marxist student disagrees, just ask her to organise dozens of hall activities without giving her ECA points). There is also no concept of employers being exploited - exploitation need not be one way, especially with trade unions (but then, these are also claimed by some to be instruments of exploitation, so).

It is ironic because it claims that Capitalism creates an illusory enemy so it can repress and control the Proletariat, the better to exploit them. Yet this enemy is never mentioned. As for itself, Capitalism is Marxism's illusory enemy.

Marxism demeans the value of humanity by second-guessing the choices that informed adults make, and calls them exploitation; whereas right wingers believe we can never blame anyone else for our choices, left wingers believe we are never to blame for our choices. The abrogation of personal responsibility and the denial of the significance of individual choices is insulting in the extreme.

Marxist paradise is like Heaven - neither will ever come because the religion is false. Instead you stay in hell - it is better for everyone to be poor than for some to be rich and others reasonably endowed. Not only is this beggaring they neighbor, it is also cutting off your nose to spite your face.

NB: Although a few Neo-Marxist elements are addressed above, critiquing Neo-Marxist arguments requires more nuanced and involved analysis than I am prepared to go into at this stage.
Political theories in one line:

Liberalism - Freedom is good
Communitarianism - Do what society (the state) says
Marxism - The rich are oppressing the poor
Feminism - Men are evil
Post-modernism - What is truth?

I was going to do Critical Theory too, but although it's broadly Neo-Marxist and has roots in that area (especially through Marcuse, Adorno and Habermas), after reflection and consideration I agree that it's more methodology than ideology, and anyway Marxism, Feminism and Post-Modernism fall under it.

Monday, March 05, 2007

ISPs/Content Publishers and Freedom of Digital Speech by Harish Pillay

"While the Technet was being contemplated in the 1991/92 time frame, because of the familiarity with the Internet, the author was invited by the Singapore Computer Society to give a talk to it's members about this new fangled thing called the "Internet"...

Minutes before starting, one of the organizers of the event came up to me and told me that there was someone from the NUS who would like to chat with me. What transpired then is somewhat anecdotal to the kind of thinking that prevailed in officialdom. I was told in no uncertain terms by the NUS person that he had wanted my talk to be canceled and that what I was going to talk about was "dangerous". What an amazing
encounter that was. I laughed it off and said that perhaps he should try to stop me...

The Hangman and Mickey Mouse
Perhaps the most telling challenge to the Singapore authorities is the now oft quoted Wired magazine story by William Gibson. This September 1993 article, while not disallowed in Singapore, was mirrored at the heart of the NCB on a machine that was serving out web pages to those who could access it. This was a bold and all together brave attempt by the person doing this hosting, a person who has a pedigree that goes all the way up the ruling party.

Just Checking
The period 1993-1995 was exciting for Internet users in Singapore chiefly because they were transitioning from a restricted, albeit privileged access Technet to a commercially sold Internet access via Singnet and Pacific Internet. The appearance of the "graphical" Internet ala WWW, meant that the inevitable will surface, that of images of naked humans.

That this was expected to happen was not lost on the powers that be, and, in what can only be deemed to be a fiasco, the head of the Technet unit took upon himself to check the files of Technet subscribers. Although the check claimed to have been limited to discover if there were files that had the file name extension .gif, of the 80,000 or so .gif files, five were deemed to be objectionable. What was done after that determination is not exactly clear, but it was sufficient to send the user base into a spin."

Free Speech and Defamation by Tey Tsun Hang

"In Jeyaretnam Joshua Benjamin v Lee Kuan Yew, the Court of Appeal made it clear that the right to free speech was subject, inter alia, to the common law of defamation as modified by the Defamation Act, showing an eagerness in upholding the statute. Instead of carrying out a proper balancing exercise and setting out its reasoning and analysis, the Court of Appeal jumped to the conclusion:

An absolute or unrestricted right of free speech would result in persons recklessly maligning others with impunity and the exercise of such a right would do the public more harm than good. Every person has a right to reputation and that right ought to be protected by law. Accordingly, a balance has to be maintained between the right of free speech on the one hand, and the right to protection of reputation on the other. The law of defamation protects such right to reputation, and, as we have shown, it was undoubtedly intended by the framers of our Constitution that the right of free speech should be subject to such law.

The Singapore judiciary has thus progressively hardened its position in dismissing the arguments that defamation actions could constitute unlawful interference with the fundamental right of free speech under Article 14 of the Constitution. In these judgments, the Singapore courts showed much eagerness in dismissing such arguments, whilst at the same time failed to set out any analysis or rationale in doing so.

Such failure on the part of the Singapore judiciary to carry out a proper balancing exercise between free speech and the protection of reputation, is most glaring when the defamation regime in Singapore is placed in its proper context – it remains one of the very few areas of law where the defendant has the burden of proving his innocence"

More papers:

*"Regulating Minority Issues on the Internet: The Uses and the Price of Indulgence" by Alex Au and Russell Heng
*"Blogging: Getting Round the Regulators" by Benjamin Ho
*"One Country, Two Media Systems? Singapore's Unsustainable Dichotomy" by Cherian George
*"Race & Religion on the Net: Dangers of Using Legislation as a Curb" by Cyril Chua
*"2006 Singapore General Election: When Laws and the Architecture of the Internet Collide" by Tang Hang Wu

Freedom Of Digital Speech Symposium, Institute of Policy Studies

I just noticed that Will, the Black Overdrive Ranger, is black.

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